FemCells at The Sheffield Anarchist Bookfair 2012
by Loosey Parsuns
The 23rd of June 2012 Sheffield held its annual Anarchist bookfair, where a hub of Anarchists and Libertarians come together and our ideas are welcomed rather than ridiculed. Located at Bank Street Arts, as soon as some of us arrived, the pigs parked up right outside the front entrance and made their way in all their ”authority” glory. It was later found out that when they went in they did their usual ”who’s in charge here?” routine. Um, all of us you hierarchical loving numpty! They kept driving past in their usual ‘intimidating’ manner throughout the course of the day. Bothered?
Our stall was jammed full of bags from the Feminist Library, feminist rare out of print books, postcards, flyers for actions/demo’s and of course our swanky new badges saying ”patriarchy, what a load of bullocks!” and also simply a purple and black one with ‘FemCells’ on it.
Our meeting kicked started right after lunch and we were really pleased at the turn out! Just over 30 people attended, some from various different groups. And it was a public meeting so everyone was welcome to come and discuss (regardless of gender),
-Why enough women aren’t represented in the barricades?
-Women’s experience of activism?
-what needs to be done to attract more women to activism and the role of gender in the movement?
If we had longer we would have taken the conversation into looking at the current role of Feminism within Activism and also discussing the rising third wave of Feminism [Slutwalk, Manarchist Meme’s etc.], But i’m sure we’ll get another chance to expand on that in the not too distant future.
We broke off into smaller groups of around 5, after a short introduction, and conscience of time we gathered back together in one discussion again near the end and each group shared their findings. The results didn’t come as much of a surprise but the way in which we all in the room responded was refreshing because we were all keen to work together towards a solution. FemCells only facilitated and tried to aid the process. We didn’t go in there with the intention to preach.
Some of the most important things that came up in the discussion were,
-How do we respond to allegations of sexual assault/abuse in the movement?
-why do activists not say they are Feminists as well as Anarchists?
Some notes taken on the day by a friend of FemCells:
· Women are often more positive which means their views are dismissed
· Judgements are made on women’s opinions on the basis of what they’re wearing so if they look too ‘feminine’ they aren’t taken very seriously
· Not always feeling safe in male-dominated spaces and so the importance of creating women-only spaces
· Wondering whose responsibility it is for women to speak up in meetings – we often need to be encouraged and given the space to speak but then we don’t want to force someone to speak who doesn’t want to etc
· The importance of scheduling meetings and events at times and in places that don’t exclude people with children or other caring responsibilities
– Also, one of the things one of the groups talked about that really struck me was the way that, as women, we often feel like we don’t really have control over being seen as sexual objects, so even if we dress ‘modestly’ or in an unfeminine way so as not to attract attention, just the fact that we’re one of the few women there marks us out for male attention.
A big thank you to FemCell’s North and South joint time and effort spent organising this! Thank you to the Book Fair organisers. And thank you to all those who put us up and made us feel welcome. It was well worth establishing contact with activists outside London and we will be going to future Anarchists book fairs around the country when able. Onwards and upwards!